Nat’l Solidarity Mission to investigate rights abuses in Abra

A National Solidarity Mission (NSM) to Lacub, Abra commenced yesterday, as representatives of various people’s organizations, human rights groups and progressive partylist organizations joined human rights workers and peace advocates in Northern Luzon. The mission is set to investigate human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law in Lacub, Abra, in the light of the continuing military operations of the 41st Infantry Battalion and the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army in the area since August this year. 

The Manila contingent is composed of Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon, leaders and representatives of Karapatan, United Church of Christ in the Philippines, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights, Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas, Children’s Rehabilitation Center, Salinlahi, Task Force for Indigenous People’s Rights, Health Alliance for Democracy, Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, League of Filipino Students, and Anakbayan. 

According to the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance, a chapter of Karapatan in the region, the extrajudicial killing of Engineer Fidela Salvador –a consultant of the Cordillera Disaster Response and Development Services Inc. (CorDisRDS) and the Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera (CDPC) and Lacub resident Noel Viste, the AFP use of 24 civilians as human shields in the conduct of their operation, the AFP use of civilian guides and the endangerment of civilians are among the grave human rights and international humanitarian law violations in the said municipality, which resulted from the military operations of the AFP.  

CHRA-Karapatan also reported that seven members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were killed in the AFP operations and their bodies, as observed during the retrieval, bore signs and strong indications of probable torture and desecration of remains. 

Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General, said that the official autopsy and narrative reports of the National Bureau of Investigation in the Cordillera Administrative Region (NBI-CAR) on the bodies of Arnold “AJ” Jaramillo and Recca Noelle Monte indicate that they were brutally and inhumanely killed by the military. 

Palabay added that the same military unit was also responsible for the military operations on October 10, 2011, which resulted to the death of eight members of the NPA in Tineg, Abra. The bodies of the eight individuals were desecrated, and there were strong indications of inhumane treatment and that most who died were not given quarter or were not spared, when they were already in no position to defend themselves. 

The 41st IBPA is also responsible for the massacre of members of the Ligiw family in Baay-Licuan, Abra. On March 7, 2014, the bodies of local residents Eddie Ligiw, his sons Freddie and Licuben were found pile up in a shallow grave near the victims’ pacalso (“hut”), all were bound, gagged and were in fetal positions. The Ligiws were farmers and small-scale miners in the area. 

On September 13, Army Chief Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri gave awards and citations to soldiers of the 41st IBPA, citing the unit’s contribution for the success of the AFP’s Oplan Bayanihan. 

“BS Aquino and the AFP certainly have this distorted sense of justice and respect for human rights by rewarding this massacre battalion with awards, instead of holding them accountable for human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law. How swift they are in pouring praises for this notorious battalion, when they have not moved an inch in looking into the complaints of relatives of the victims and have not heeded the call of the people of Abra to pull out these soldiers from their communities,” Palabay said. 

As of this writing, the AFP operations continue in Lacub and nearby municipalities, seriously affecting agricultural production and small-scale mining activities, resulting to effects on the people’s livelihood and food source, CHRA reported. 

“AFP operations in Abra under Oplan Bayanihan should stop immediately and the 41st IBPA and all military units involved in the said operations should be pulled out and prosecuted,” Palabay said. 

Other references: 
https://www.karapatan.org/updated-UA-Abra-Immediate-Cessation-of-AFP-Military-Operations-in-Abra